Shoppers have been good about waiting their turn — one at a time — at farm stands, a longtime grower said this week.
Like many of his fellow farmers, Scott Chichester, owner of Chi’s Farm at 142 Towne Road in Sequim, is seeing fresh vigor in his outdoor marketplace.
It’s early in the season on the North Olympic Peninsula, but stands and stores such as Chi’s, Short’s Family Farm and Red Dog Farm, both in Chimacum, are already seeing higher demand than they did this time last year.
“People just can’t get enough of our salad mix,” Chichester said of his organic greens, which sell for $6 per half-pound.
In this age of heightened cleanliness awareness, farms stands like Chichester’s package their green leafy produce in individual bags.
“As a crew, we’re adhering to food safety practices like we normally do and doing extra sanitizing,” Chichester said.
“We’ve had a lot more business since social distancing [began], because at the farm stand, you’re essentially out of doors.”
Karyn Williams, owner of Red Dog Farm, said she’s also been busy. Williams estimated a five-fold increase in farm-stand sales over the same period last year.
People who prefer to forage for groceries outdoors — and those who are spending money on home cooking — have been going to Williams’ stand at 406 Center Road, and to various other farms in a 30-mile radius.
“The restaurants aren’t buying,” said Williams, so the steady flow of customers is “really impactful.”
On some afternoons, Williams said her stand has sold nearly all of its vegetables and flowers.
While Chi’s is open 24 hours every day, the Red Dog stand’s hours are from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.
Chimacum’s SpringRain Farm and Egg & I Farmstand are open during daylight hours; others, such as Clark Farms and Nash’s Organic Produce in Sequim, are open by appointment or for drive-by pickup.
Buying products such as salad mix, tulips or beef direct from a nearby grower supports the local economy, noted Clea Rome, director of the Washington State University Extension in Clallam County.
“These farmers are small businesses,” she said, adding that it’s more important than ever to engage with local food providers in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
At Short’s Family Farm, beef is a big seller in addition to soil products because “a lot of people are planting gardens this year,” said Samantha Janes, the farm’s gardener and spokesperson.
Some local growers will partake in the Port Townsend Farmers Market, a smaller incarnation of which is set to open Saturday at Lawrence and Tyler streets, and at the Sequim Farmers and Artisans Market, scheduled for a May 16 start at the Civic Center on Cedar Street at Sequim Avenue.
The Port Angeles Farmers Market, normally year-round at Front and Lincoln streets, is aiming for a May 9 reopening, according to manager Billy Fortini.
At the same time, the North Olympic Peninsula’s farming community is adapting to market challenges, Rome said. Some farmers take produce orders on their websites and provide curbside pickup.
Several offer community-supported agriculture in which customers buy farm shares: boxes of whatever produce has been harvested that week. Port Angeles’ Wild Edge Farm, Chimacum’s Finnriver Farm & Cidery, Kodama Food Forest and Red Dog Farm, Quilcene’s Midori and Serendipity farms, and Chi’s and River Run of Sequim are examples.
At farm stands across the region, products range from plant starts and herb bundles to meat and poultry. Both Short’s Family Farm and Clark Farms, whose Anderson Road store is open by Saturday appointment, offer grass-fed beef.
More than ever, Rome said, the fields, pastures and greenhouses around us can keep people — and the economic ecosystem — healthy.
“The more we can rely on our local farmers and help them stay strong,” she said, “the more we all benefit.”